(CNN) The United States military on Thursday released a video that it says shows an Iranian navy boat removing an unexploded mine attached to the hull of the Japanese-owned chemical tanker Kokura Courageous, one of two tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday blamed Iran for attacking the Kokura Courageous and another ship, Norwegian-owned Front Altair, saying the assessment was based on intelligence. Later Thursday night, US Central Command released the video, which it says shows Iranian sailors removing a mine from the Kokura Courageous’ hull.
The attack comes at a time of high tensions between the US and Iran, and could provide more fodder for Iran hawks within the administration, whose recent Iran saber-rattling has frustrated President Donald Trump. One of them, national security adviser John Bolton, announced last month that the Pentagon was deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the Middle East in response to a “number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran.
Earlier in the day, four US officials told CNN the US had the images.
One of the officials said the video came from a US military aircraft that was recording as it flew overhead.
The boat made the move even after the destroyer USS Bainbridge, as well as a US drone and P-8 aircraft, had been on the scene for four hours. US defense officials believe that the Iranians were seeking to recover evidence of their involvement in the attack.
Another of the officials told CNN that multiple Iranian small boats have entered the area where the Bainbridge continues to be on the scene, prompting US Central Command to issue a statement saying, “No interference with USS Bainbridge, or its mission, will be tolerated.”
The two tankers — one carrying oil and the other transporting chemicals — were attacked in international waters near the strategically important Strait of Hormuz. All crew members were evacuated and were safe, according to the owners of the two ships.
The vessels were hit “at or below the waterline, in close proximity to the engine room,” said the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko).
“Reported attacks on Japan-related tankers occurred while PM was meeting with Ayatollah [Ali Khamenei] for extensive and friendly talks. Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning,” Zarif tweeted Thursday.
The incident follows attacks on four oil tankers in the United Arab Emirates’ port of Fujairah in May.
This story has been updated.